Addison Rose Vincent: "Non-binary is an identity in itself, and that’s valid. "

Addison Rose Vincent: "Non-binary is an identity in itself, and that’s valid. "
Addison Rose Vincent for The Girls Book issue 01 (photography by Texas Isaiah)

Addison Rose Vincent doesn't want a genderless future, but rather a gender-full future. The non-binary activist, educator, and founder of Break the Binary travels around the world to LGBTQ+ centers, schools, and support groups to spread the message of their organization's name: abolish the gender binary and imagine a world beyond. Addison's journey hasn't been gender euphoric since the beginning. They recall going through haunting periods in their life where they didn't think if tomorrow would happen. But as the saying goes, after the dark must come the light. And Addison is glowing right now. We talked to them about T4T dating, Halloween as a soft coming out, and the conditioner they use to maintain their glass-hair. Read below to get to know Addison.

Kai: Do you want to give us a little intro to who you are? All the identities you identify with, pronouns, titles, and where you’re from.

Addison: My name is Addison Rose Vincent. I use they/them pronouns. I identify as non-binary. I was born in Canada, raised in Michigan, and now live in Los Angeles. I've been here for 12 years.

Kai: Okay, nice. So this is very much like home.

Addison: I consider this home now, for sure.

Kai: And did your journey with gender happen once you got to LA?

Addison: Yeah. So when I moved away from Michigan at 17 for college in Orange County - Orange County of all places, as you know is, phew…That's where I first came out as gay. And then three years later I was sort of delving into a gender journey, and that's when I came out as non-binary. By the time I almost graduated from college.

Kai: What was that journey like in terms of, you know, in a brand new space, you can kind of reinvent yourself?

Addison: That's what it felt like. It felt like I could become my own person. I didn't have the expectations or standards or pressures from back home in Michigan. I was able to come out to California and reinvent myself and find myself in a way. And so my journey, I would say began around Halloween. I was talking about this the other day with a friend, and for many of us, I think that we use Halloween as an opportunity to play with gender.

And I remember freshman year, I was in a dorm room with some of my girlfriends, hanging out and helping me get dressed. I wanted to be this sexy witch that year. So I found this wig and dress and the striped stockings. And when I looked in the mirror and saw myself in this feminine form, I felt immediate euphoria.

There was something that clicked, something that felt right. But for them, they thought that it was a joke, right? That they thought this was a funny thing. So they all laughed at this, right? It wasn't that I felt like I was being bullied. It was more that I was supposed to be putting on this joke for them.

And for me, it wasn't a joke anymore.

I buried that in the back of my head. A year later I was studying abroad, this time in Vietnam. I was with friends, and I decided, “You know what, let's try this again. I’m with new people.”

So I dressed up, but this time as Ursula from the Little Mermaid, when she transformed into Vanessa, right; she's seducing prince Eric. I wanted that kind of energy. So I bought this black dress. I had the conch shell necklace. I got a wig. And this time, instead of people laughing at me, people were like, “wow, you look so good. You look amazing.”

Having that sense of validation from people around me started something in me. It started this journey. So over the next three years, I kept playing with gender, learning more about it. I read a lot about gender studies and theory and realized that by 2013, I was non-binary.

Addison Rose Vincent for The Girls Book (photography by Texas Isaiah)

Kai: And now you have this whole business where you're going around and giving talks and deconstructing that binary. Could you talk a little bit about like where that all came from?

Addison: Well, nine years later now I'm here, and I've got my business, Break the Binary. I've been doing this technically since 2016, but officially since 2019. And I provide LGBTQ+ training to businesses, schools, and organizations, not just in the U.S., but worldwide.

Some of my clients have been in Australia and the UK, South America. It's been really amazing. I love doing this work because we're breaking down the binary with folks and helping folks understand that when it comes to gender, sex, sexuality, or attraction, as well as expression, there's nothing binary about it.

There's such a range of ways to be, identify and express ourselves and not feel like we have to limit ourselves either. I try to through my work normalize the existence of non-binary people, gender non-conforming, people, intersex people, and trans people. Not just in hopes of helping my clients understand us, but I love this work because sometimes the clients learn more about themselves in the process. I've had people come out to me later as trans or non-binary or queer or something. They're like, “I just didn't know. I didn't know that I could identify that way or that there was a definition or terminology for that.”

I would like to tell myself today and my 10-year-old self, to think about the future and know that we belong here.

Kai: That part. If I was in grade school and someone was coming in being like, “It doesn't have to be just boys and girls,” it would've been mindblowing. And within nonbinary, I think for some people it’s the pipeline of non-binary first, and then you dip your toes into transness. What’s your journey with transness?

Addison: I'm in a place right now where I'm having a complex with using the term trans for myself. I’ll get there in a second. But you just brought up this pipeline of non-binary and trans and I've seen it. There becomes even an ongoing question that's looming around people, around me, too, of, “Okay, when are you gonna fully transition? When are you gonna choose to be a man or a woman?”

It's been this ongoing battle for me to let folks know this is who I am. Non-binary is an identity in itself, and that’s valid.

I think the same thing applies to a lot of bisexual people too. This idea that you have to eventually choose between being straight or gay. Even for intersex folks.

Since 2013, that's the term I've been using. I didn't use trans and then non-binary or non-binary then trans. I use both terms at the same time. And for me, non-binary means I don't identify exclusively as a man or woman. I'm somewhere in between and outside that binary. It's very vague and complex.

Even the term non-binary I think is something that we can also work on. I know that I'm not binary, so, but what does that make me? It’s an absence of binary, but I wanna know what I'm full of. Anyway, that's another discussion.

Kai: Yeah. And you brought up some interesting things about language. We have trans femme, trans masc language that addresses the non-binary spectrum within transness. Allowing that gray space to exist is super important. Because then that, you know, as you said, that is just as valid.

With non-binary, for me too, I was like, “It's still centering the binary.” So, what's the word after that? There's genderqueer, gender non-conforming, but I feel we're culturally reaching a point of post-gender. When can we stop talking about these labels that apply to gender? So we could just be.

Addison: I hear that too. It still upholds that there are people who are binary and not binary. That's that binary in itself, right?

I would love to push for a somewhat post-gender world. It's not necessarily that we're not talking about gender ever, or that there's an absence of gender. There's this idea too, that we wanna abolish gender completely.

For me, it's more about abolishing these standards around gender, gender assignment, and gender roles that are toxic and horrible, and expected based on the sex that we're assigned at birth. Right?

I would love to live in a world where all gender identities are embraced, validated, and, celebrated, and someone isn't judged based on their gender or expression, but on their character and who they are.

We are in the midst of a lot of political action, social action, and cultural movements pushing against our community, both trans and non-binary. This is a time for us to talk even more about our gender identities and terminology. To keep normalizing our existences and educating, especially youth around the possibilities of who they can be and how they can identify. Because the right-wing conservatives are doing everything in their power to silence us.

We need to keep educating and sharing our stories.

Kai: Was there a specific possibility model you saw when you came into your gender?

Addison: I read a lot of Janet Mock. I read her first book a few times and her second book, which I loved. And I loved seeing Laverne Cox when she would do speaking gigs. She would talk about her own story of coming out and coming to terms with things. And I identified with that. It was hard for me though because I felt like even though around the time that I was exploring my gender and coming out, there were a lot of trans women and trans man narratives, I was still struggling to figure out being non-binary at this time. I didn't have a lot of people that I could look up to. There was one documentary called The Gender Knots. I saw it one time, and it was pretty outdated, but I was able to pull something from that

Besides that, I think the only person who inspired me when I was first coming out was this person back in high school that I keep in my memory, and their name was Khonsu. They were gender nonconforming, black, tall model-like, a stunning person and would show up to prom and homecoming in these intricate satin outfits.

I was always drawn to this person because I felt safe around them. But I also was in a place of a lot of shame, and I didn't want to get too close to being associated with this person. That's stuff I had to work through.

When I came out, I had Khonsu in the back of my mind. And by 2016, I was like, “You know what? I should reach out to Khonsu and see what they're up to.” I found out that Khonsu had come out as a trans woman. And then a few years later had detransitioned under pressure and became a right-wing Christian YouTuber. It got me thinking a lot about all the different maybe factors that went into that journey for Khonsu.

I can only imagine too, that if I had stayed in Michigan, stayed where I was so isolated from community and resources, and where people were even harsher and against this community. I can imagine the pressures of wanting to break away from who you are just to have some sense of consistency and safety.

It makes me even more passionate about this work of educating and teaching and letting folks know that it's okay to look like this. It's okay to be trans, non-binary,

Kai: Switching gears a little bit, how was Mexico and being with a group of the girls and traveling?

Addison: Sometimes I shave my face because I’m unsure if that will present more safety for me. Sometimes I traveled with a beard. Nowadays, at least in LA and Mexico, people might look but won’t say something to me directly. I feel relatively safe and going with a group of friends helps for sure. People aren’t going to mess with us or say something to us if we’re strong together. Especially when you have confident, badass people around you who own their identities.

My funniest memory of the trip was when we did these gondola boats on these canals. You can do a lot of day drinking, and people are playing music. There are service boats that come up next to the gondolas, and they’ll sell micheladas or have mariachi bands that perform.

There were four of us on this huge gondola that we rented out, and the girls decided to put some music on, and they were voguing, dancing, stripping. Working it because these girls are these girls. I was laughing because other families passing by thought we were providing entertainment as if we were a service. One mom closed her son’s eyes. It was funny taking up space and letting people react and respond. How they react is not about us, it’s about what they’re going through and their internalized stuff.

Kai: A hundred percent. And what a beautiful moment to show queer joy. I'm sure other people were jealous because they weren't having as much fun.

If you could tell, 10-year-old Addison something what would that be?

Addison: Oh gosh. I would probably say, just get through it. I mean, elementary school, middle school. Oof. Those were rough years. I ended up at a boys' middle school in Michigan. It was traumatizing. Sometimes I sit here, and I'm shocked that I'm alive today because there are so many moments where I was ready just to end it.

I'm going to be honest with you right now. I didn't wanna make it through. And so to let me know, just keep pushing through. It’s all going to be worth it in the end. I think that that's probably what I would say.

My 30th, birthday's coming up in September. I’ve got people who are turning forty, too. I ask them, what are you planning on doing this year for your birthday? We all sit and go “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about this.” The conversation always ends in the direction of “I didn't think I was gonna make it this far.”

I haven't planned out things that affect our finances and investments. Our savings affects our spending behaviors. It affects our decisions in life because we end up becoming impulsive instead of thinking about the future.

I would like to tell myself today and my 10-year-old self, to think about the future and know that we belong here.

Addison Rose Vincent for The Girls Book (photography by Texas Isaiah)

Kai: Thank you for sharing that. That reality of being unable to see your past a certain age is very real. For me too. I started transitioning about a year ago, and before then I was just depressed. I was like, “I don't know if life is for me. It's just always dark.”

And then, once you start to find your authenticity and live in it, you're like, “oh, this is what living is like.” And then you have to start thinking of living after that point. It’s queer dreaming and allowing ourselves to dream.

Something I'm struggling with as I'm coming into gender is dating. When do you reveal gender? Where do you go to meet people who are okay with it?

Addison: When I was still closeted in Canada and Michigan I didn't feel like I could pursue anybody because I would be outing myself. So for me, like, it was a lot of secretive experimenting with sometimes older men as a teenager, which is kind of fucked up or other kids too who were identifying as queer. But that was only hooking up.

When I came out as gay, it was settling for crumbs. I felt like I was only able to hook up with guys who wanna treat me as an experiment. That then transferred over as I was exploring my gender identity and coming out as trans and non-binary.

That also stemmed from my sex education from porn as a teenager, right. In this fantasy idea, I needed to strive for the straight bro-y frat guy, whatever that be.

Not only was that the prize but also having someone so masculine validated my femininity. I was never able to date because I felt like I didn't deserve a relationship or that I was incapable of a relationship or that I was only capable of being an experiment for someone.

Then when I was 24, I met Ethan. He's now my ex-husband, and he was the first trans guy I was with. And he was the first guy who wanted to get to know me and want to start a relationship. I was like, “You don't wanna treat me as an experiment? You love me? What’s happening?” I was shook the entire time. This was my first relationship, and it lasted five years.

Now that we're not together for reasons I won't share, I’m putting myself back out there. That’s been a journey. I need more time to process where I'm at and how I want to show up in a relationship. I've tried social media, Tinder OK Cupid, and Hinge. I've never done Grindr. It's so hard to be on those apps without being banned for being trans and non-binary. Or to get messages that are just so invasive or experiment-wise.

Is it love or is it a trauma bond?

To be honest, what I've been working through lately has been imposter syndrome. And learning to trust people, not seeing everybody as a threat. Not seeing every situation or potential, even someone who's attracted as wanting to just use or experiment with me.

To be vulnerable and potentially get hurt again. That's so scary. I don't want to go into every date thinking, “Okay, what's the threat here? What’s this person going to do to me?”

Kai: That is so real. That's the tea. I've had some experiences with T4T, and that's also an interesting experience because sometimes I'm like, “Is it love or are we just affirming each other's gender?”

Addison: Is it love or is it a trauma bond?

Kai: That part. We're just both hurt souls. We hang out with each and–

Addison: Then take it out on each other.

So many couples break up in our community, and then I see many posts where it's like, “My ex was abusive and toxic.”

That's every breakup I see, which tells me two things. One is that you don't need to share everything on social media. And two, if that's the case in our communities we need to have a bigger community discussion around how we date people. How do we truly love people? What do we need to work on to be ready to show up for each other? That's the bigger conversation that we need to have,

Kai: It makes me think of this whole wave of polyamory as the antithesis to monogamy. And if you're not polyamorous, you're not queer enough.

Addison: Polyamory is something that I'm seeing a lot more of, too. Or not committing to a partner, being solo. People can do whatever they want, and I'm glad people are exploring things beyond just monogamous relationships.

I find that it’s becoming a standard in itself in the community. People are taught monogamy but are now expected to follow polyamory, and that can get messy really fast.

All I can say is, don't be with someone if you're monogamous and that person's polyamorous because it's probably not going to work out. And don't be poly and be with someone who's monogamous. That's all I'm going to say.

Kai: I recently went on a date with this trans guy, and on the second date, he was like, “I'm seeing this other girl. She knows about you. You know about her.” And I'm like “What? What am I stepping into?” There's this weird standard that all queer people need to be polyamorous because that's the hot queer thing to do. But maybe monogamy works for some of us.

Addison: It is to each their own. Relationship structures change. That's a hard thing to adapt to. If someone wants polyamory at first, then they want monogamy or vice versa; it comes down to communication with partners and letting folks know what you need and what you want.

And for that to not be phrased to partners that, “You're not enough of a person for me to be with,” but instead "You're a whole person, and I require more people."

I was in a monogamous relationship for five years. I don't know what I want. All I know is that I just need myself right now.

Kai: Speaking of you, I want to know some of your secrets about your hair, because it always looks stunning.

Addison: Thank you. I wash my hair every three days, and I use Lush. They have this rehab shampoo. That's amazing. And then I use Herbal Essence coconut conditioner. I swear that's the best conditioner I've ever used. It gets my hair nice and soft.

And then I take estrogen.

Kai: She always helps. Now that my hair's growing out, I’m starting to think about all the accessories of being femme. The long hair and I'm going through laser right now. Do I want to get my face done? Do I want to get my titties done?

I'm always curious, what are the tips and tricks that the girls are doing?

Addison: I got my face done last February with Dr. Lee at UCLA. She's amazing. If you have Medical, LA Care, whatever it be, go to her. She's awesome. I got my forehead done. They brought down my hairline. They did my chin and my jaw, and then they did some lips. They took the tissue from my scalp and put that into my top lip.

Kai: Oh my God. Gag.

Addison: Instead of doing fat grafting, because that can sometimes clump. It moves around. My chest is all from hormones.

I have a friend who did liposuction. She had the fat grafted around her breast plants. That was an option for her. Having an orchiectomy, which I'm really happy I did. It makes it a lot easier for tucking.

Unfortunately for me, I ended up losing my fertility in the process of taking hormones. It’s not the same for everybody. You can be on estrogen for up to 10 years and then stop. And after about six to 12 months, you can regain your fertility.

That's for many people, but for me, I had the case where I was off my hormones for a year and a half, and I still didn't regain fertility.

Kai: Fertility is something that I'm thinking about too. Do I want kids, do I even wanna save this sperm and like pay rent on sperm? I don't. I'd rather use that money for myself.

Addison: If you have insurance, that covers fertility stuff, which some insurance companies do, go for it. I always tell people, before you start hormones if you can get your sperm or eggs stored somewhere, do it. Even if you don't want kids, now, just to have that option.

Kai: And queer family building is so different. Where are you at with thinking about a family?

Addison: I try not to think about it too much right now. I can barely take care of my plants.

In the idea of having kids, some of the big things that come up for me are how do I break cycles now to avoid putting that on my kids? I think about how would I raise my kids in terms of their gender identities?

I hear within the community about gendering your kids based on their assigned birth sex, and then allowing them the opportunity to come out as trans or non-binary. Give them that supportive space. I've met people where their child has an absence of gender. They don't gender them at all. They allow opportunities for the kids to decide along the way or expose them to all different gender identities and expressions. I've even met people who intentionally assigned a different gender to their child. It's to each their own.

I don't know how I would approach that. On top of that, my biggest concern is my fear about having kids will they accept me? Will they be proud of me? That’s some real shit. I know people who come out as parents, as trans or non-binary and their kids disowned them. That scares me.

Kai: That is scary. Hopefully, if you start with them young enough, whether adopted or biological or whatever form, because you're their parent, there's not any of that. You can only control the things you have controlled over.

Addison: In the meantime, I'm getting puppies in March.

Kai: Oh my gosh. Yes! Furry friends always help. How exciting. What kind of puppies?

Addison Rose Vincent for The Girls Book (photography by Texas Isaiah)

Addison: I'm getting Havanese puppies. I want to take on responsibilities to distract me from myself.

Kai: I've been thinking about a dog too. I could use another friend around here. But then, once you get a dog, that's a whole lifestyle shift of needing to be home at a certain time and going on walks. And I'm like, “Am I ready for a baby?

Addison: Do you have a typical routine each day?

Kai: I don't, which is why I think having a dog could help because it would build a routine for me.

Addison: Build a routine first. Don't have the dog forcing you to have a routine. We got to work on ourselves first. I started getting into this routine where I wake up at seven in the morning. I do yoga at eight. Hiking at nine. Breakfast at 10, and then do exercise at 11. Then I start my work day.

I recommend doing things that nourish our sense of self beyond our gender identities. We talk so much about being trans and non-binary that it becomes a center of who we are. That’s just one part of our experience. There’s so much more to us. I’m trying to add dance lessons and violin playing.

Develop my palette. Develop my sense of adventure. Put myself out there more.

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